SPRINGER — The final bell rang-in Spring Break hours ago, but for Garrett Elmore and his horse Dixie, it’s time to get back to work.
Elmore, facing the start of the second leg of his road to a state title, gets in a few more reps and ropes, saddling Dixie for one final ride in the arena at his family’s ranch in Springer.
In the morning, he’ll be defending his home turf as 250 of Oklahoma’s finest high school and junior high cowboys and cowgirls descend upon Hardy Murphy Coliseum, beginning a spring circuit that will decide a State Champion with the top four earning a spot in Nationals.
“It’s kind of nerve-racking, being in your hometown, with kids you’ve grown up with there, but when you’re practicing like I do, putting the time in every day, you’re confident in what you do,” Elmore said. “I hope I put together four of the best runs I can make, earn points and eventually win a state title at the end of the year.”
Elmore, a junior at Harvest Fellowship Christian School, is a roper and one of the best in the state. No small claim in a state like Oklahoma which consistently produces some of the best talent in the Pro Rodeo circuits.
“We’re going up against the best of the best in high school rodeo,” Elmore said. “You have to constantly be on your game, A lot of these guys will be in the pro circuit one day. For me, that’s the ultimate goal. The short-term goal is State. My long-term plan is to go pro.”
Elmore has gone to Nationals two straight years and this year, he said he hopes the home-field advantage and countless hours of preparation at his home arena will pay off, serving as a catalyst for a state title run.
“Having support and people you know there, it’s huge, it keeps your confidence up,” Elmore said. “It keeps you lifted up. It’s special to have people around you and rooting for you. I want to win state. That starts here in Ardmore.”
For Elmore getting on top of a horse and throwing a rope comes about as natural as breathing.
He’s done it for as long as he can remember, competing since he was a kid.
“It’s just everyday life, for me, it’s all I’ve ever known,” Elmore said. “I could swing a rope before I could walk, I’ve done it all my life. It’s what my family’s done and it’s what I do hope to in the future.”
The top four competitors at the end of the season will represent Oklahoma in the National High School Rodeo finals in Rock Spring, Wyoming in May. After the fall, Elmore sits in fourth place in the team roping and on the bubble in calf roping, sitting in fifth place.
Jeff Todd, the president of the Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association said the pressure is on for the competitors at Hardy Murphy Coliseum.
“This leg is where the pressure really starts to build up,” Todd said. “Our kids have had half the season already and you’ve got your leaders and you got kids trying to rise from the pack."
Admission to the rodeo is free and will begin today at 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. ending on Saturday.
Events include Bareback and Saddle Bronc Riding, Barrel Racing, Tie Down Roping, Breakaway Roping, Steer Wrestling, Goat Tying, Team Roping, Pole Bending and Bull Riding.
Todd said Ardmore can expect plenty of excitement at the three-day event, with a wide array of competition happening simultaneously in two arenas.
“It’ll be constant action in both arenas, five hours worth of constant action in Ardmore,” Todd said. "We like coming to Ardmore. There are only a few facilities in Oklahoma that can handle such a large event.”
In addition to getting three days and nearly 15 hours of free, constant entertainment, the OHSRA/OJHRA president said those in attendance will get a sneak peek at the future stars of rodeo at Hardy Murphy Coliseum this weekend.
“We’ve got a lot of talent here,’ he said. “You’ll be seeing a few of them on television in the future.”
Additionally, Todd said, you’ll be seeing the competitors out and about, wearing their numbers as 250 families pour into Ardmore.
“The economic impact is great,” Todd said. “Ardmore will see a lot of families here the next three days. The kids are required to wear numbers outside of competition, so there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing some of the kids getting dinner at Two Frogs and around Main Street.”
While competitors from across the state will eat out and sleep in hotel beds, Elmore and his horses will be enjoying the comforts home ranch each night of the rodeo.
“It adds a sense of comfort,” Elmore said. “Hopefully I can take advantage.”